Russia has been reportedly enlisting thousands of mercenaries, including from its private military company, the Wagner Group, Syrian fighters into the Ukraine war, and freezing contracts of all military personnel.
These mercenaries will not be treated as prisoners-of-war (POW) and will be subject to criminal liability, Russian Defence spokesperson Igor Konashenov had said, according to Russian news agency TASS.
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Not only Russia, but the West has also been recruiting mercenaries, according to reports. US and European private contractors are indulging in opportunities to help supply logistics in the war. There is, apparently, demand for these paid security workers, who comprise former soldiers who have skills and tactics to fight a war, a BBC report has said.
The mercenaries from the West, however, will not have the rights of a combatant under the international humanitarian law, the Russian defence ministry had said.
Who are Mercenaries and What is Their Role in a War?
Mercenaries are civilians who are paid to perform military operations in a war. They are hired professionals who work for any country or state with no regard to political interests.
According to US author and professor of strategy at Georgetown and National Defense University, a mercenary has a few distinguished characteristics. First, they are motivated by profit than politics. Companies supplying these mercenaries are structured as business and are even traded on Wall Street and London Stock Exchange.
Moreover, these mercenaries are lethal and represent the commodification of an armed conflict. They largely seek work in foreign lands.
The most accepted definition of a mercenary is provided in the Article 47 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions:
1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.
2. A mercenary is any person who:
a. is especially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
b. does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
c. is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
d. is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
e. is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
f. has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
Mercenaries Involved in Ukraine-Russia war
Private Companies: A job advertisement on a listing website for defence and private jobs, Silent Professionals, sought “multiple extraction and protective agents” to conduct evacuation of families and individuals throughout Ukraine. “Employer is a US-based corporation. Both male and female agents are welcome to apply,” the advertisement says. The job would pay $1,000-$2,000 per day plus a bonus after completion of the operation, the ad read. A Ukrainian official said the government was not hiring from any private contractor but welcoming those who are willing to help in the war.
Chechen Fighters: Russia has already been using Chechen forces who have been dispatched to Ukraine. According to The Guardian newspaper, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council, Oleksiy Danilov, had alleged that a unit of Chechen special forces had been sent to kill Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. A large number of Muslim Chechens are siding with Ukraine. Photos of armed Chechens wearing yellow armbands, identified as Ukrainian forces, have been floating on social media.
Ukraine’s International Legion: The Ukrainian government has said around 16,000 volunteers have signed up to join the international legion. President Zelenskyy has already waived visas of those volunteering to fight the war in Ukriane. Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that around 20,000 foreign volunteers have gone to Ukraine to fight against Russia.
Syrian Mercenaries: Russia has intervened in Syria in 2015 to help the government led by Bashar al-Assad to fight against Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups in the Syrian war since 2011. According to a Syrian news agency, Deir Ezzor 24, a Syrian mercenary was hired for $200 to $300 to fight in Ukraine as “guards” for six months. Reuters had also reported that hundreds of Syrian mercenaries were deployed by Russia to fight in Libya in 2020.
Wagner Group: The British newspaper, The Times, had reported that the mercenaries from the Wagner Group has been sent to Ukraine on the orders of President Vladimir Putin to take out Zelenskyy. The Group has been sanctioned by the European Union for alleged human rights violations in Libya, Syria and Donbas, eastern Ukraine, where they operate. The Group was founded in 2014 to carry out operations ordered by the Kremlin. According to a 2017 Bloomberg report, the mercenary group had as many as 6,000 members.
Times reports The Wagner Group is behind assassination attempts on Zelensky. They’re run by Dmitry Utkin, pictured here showing off his Waffen SS collar tabs & Reichsadler Eagle tattoos. Putin is sending Nazis to kill a Jew in the name of ‘denazification’. https://t.co/RSt40OENl2 pic.twitter.com/UDVK4KVC5L— Blair McDougall (@blairmcdougall) March 4, 2022
Around 1,335 civilian casualties in Ukraine, including 474 killed and 861 injured, have been verified since Russia’s invasion began on February 24, the United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday.